Ontario Deploys Rapid Tests to More Essential Workplaces and Settings
February 12, 2021
Based on the successful use of rapid tests in select settings across the province the Ontario government is deploying test kits to more essential workplaces and sectors in order to quickly identify and help stop the spread of COVID-19. Rapid tests are now being used in long-term care homes, retirement homes, congregate care settings, First Nations communities and many essential workplaces. "The use of rapid tests are real gamechangers as they provide results in a matter of minutes instead of hours or days," said Premier Ford. "It's important to get them out the door as quickly as possible to provide an added layer of protection for our frontline workers and vulnerable citizens, especially those in rural and remote areas of the province." To enhance protection against COVID-19 variants and support a safe and gradual return to the COVID-19 Response Framework, Ontario has deployed approximately two million rapid antigen tests and 175,000 rapid diagnostic tests to essential workplaces and highly vulnerable settings like long-term care homes and retirement homes. At scale, the province will be deploying approximately one million tests per week across targeted sectors. "Our government is committed to providing Ontarians with more access to innovative testing options to help stop the spread of COVID-19," said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. "Based on our success to date, we continue to expand the use of rapid tests to protect patients, long-term care residents, and our frontline and essential workers." "It is imperative that we help maintain essential manufacturers and supply chains that keep clean water flowing, keep food on the table and keep the lights on," said Vic Fedeli, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade. "Rapid testing for employees in our most at-risk and critical industries is essential for the safety of Ontario's workforce and for the swift recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic." In addition to essential workplaces, Ontario is providing rapid antigen tests to other targeted settings across the province as part of its Provincial Antigen Screening Program. This includes:
More than 905,000 rapid antigen tests have been deployed to 455 long-term care homes, and going forward, the province will provide approximately 385,000 tests per week for asymptomatic staff, support workers, essential caregivers, students and volunteers.
Approximately 220,000 rapid antigen tests have been deployed to 152 retirement homes, and going forward, the province plans to provide up to 118,000 tests per week for asymptomatic staff and essential visitors such as personal support workers or other care providers entering retirement homes.
170,000 rapid tests have been sent to over 160 workplaces, including 30 essential industry sites. As Ontario begins to safely and gradually transition to a revised and strengthened COVID-19 Response Framework the province will continue to deploy rapid testing in workplaces, including up to 300,000 COVID-19 tests per week for asymptomatic staff in key sectors such as manufacturing, warehousing, supply chain, mining, construction and food processing.
Working with a broad range of congregate care settings to onboard interested organizations to deploy rapid antigen tests in the coming days and weeks, including to residential mental health, adult and children's residences, supportive housing and other congregate living settings.
As announced on February 1, Ontario is further expanding asymptomatic and symptomatic testing to schools that are resuming in-person learning. To support school reopening, over 4,000 ID NOW rapid diagnostic tests have been distributed to assessment centres for the rapid testing of symptomatic children in areas where turnaround times for results are above target. "We recognize that testing is critical in the prevention of the spread of COVID-19," said Ernie Hardeman, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. "As essential industry workplaces, I strongly encourage agri-food supply chain businesses to work with the Ministry of Health to participate in the rapid testing for their workers, including agri-food workers." Ontario has rolled out an additional 175,000 ID NOW tests to hospitals and assessment centres in 108 rural and remote communities across the province. This includes deployment to 43 Indigenous sites to support community-led efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and to four public health units to use in early outbreak investigations and testing campaigns for vulnerable populations, including the homeless and people living in congregate settings. The province continues to ensure that anyone who needs a test can get a test and receive their results as quickly as possible. Anyone who falls within the current Provincial Testing Guidance should continue to seek publicly funded testing, available at participating pharmacies, specimen collection centres, and assessment centres. If you have COVID-19 symptoms, you should get tested at an assessment centre.
Ontario has completed over 10.1 million lab-based PCR tests to date, more than all Canadian provinces and territories combined.
A rapid antigen test (also known as a point-of-care test) can be performed anywhere (i.e. on-site, at the place of employment) by a health professional and does not require shipping a specimen to a lab for processing. It takes approximately 15 minutes to yield a result.
Frequent screening with rapid antigen tests increases the chances of early identification of cases in otherwise asymptomatic individuals.
The Panbio and BD Veritor tests use antigen testing with a nasopharyngeal, nasal, deep nasal, combined throat and dual nares swabs (for Panbio) and nasal swabs (for BD Veritor). Antigen testing detects specific proteins from the virus to screen and identify people who need further testing.
The ID NOW test uses molecular testing with a nasal, nasopharyngeal or throat swab. Molecular testing detects genetic material of COVID-19 to diagnose people with symptoms.
Ontario has also released guidance for individuals or organizations that choose to participate in COVID-19 testing that falls outside of the public health care system, to ensure there is appropriate oversight and consumer protection and that public resources are supporting public health initiatives.
The Ontario government is working with essential industries to identify priority sites, and is proactively reaching out to key companies inviting them to participate in the rapid testing program. Participating sites have been identified by sponsoring ministries based on assessment criteria that looks at the principles of risk, vulnerability and criticality.
Ontario's initial shipments of rapid tests from the federal government will not begin to expire for several months. The province will continue to deploy testing supplies quickly, using a first-in, first-out approach, while seeking opportunities to purchase additional supplies.
Anyone with symptoms or who is a known close contact of someone with COVID-19, and other groups that meet provincial testing eligibility criteria, should make an appointment at an assessment centre, participating pharmacy or specimen collection centre. Please visit Ontario.ca/covidtest to find a testing location and for eligibility criteria to be tested.
COVID Alert is available for free use and download from the Apple and Google Play app stores. This new app lets users know if they may have been exposed to the virus.
Visit Ontario’s website to learn more about how the province continues to protect the people of Ontario from COVID-19.
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